Cancer Remission: Types, Recurrence and What It Means?
In this article, we are going to elaborate on what cancer remission is, the different kinds of cancer remission as well as whether cancer has been completely cured when in remission. Therefore, let us go through all these various terms that the different ways in which cancer usually responds to treatment and what this could mean to your overall health condition.
Cancer remission is best described as the absence of the active cancer infection for a duration which is a minimum of one month. However, the nonexistence of the active illness does not mean that there are entirely no noticeable signs of cancer or that the disease has been treated. Additionally, there are two types of cancer remission, that is the partial remission and the complete remission.
Typically, this type of cancer remission refers to cancer which does not have any symptoms or signs, and in some cases is referred to as undetectable infection. Furthermore, upon a physical examination either through radiological tests, for instance, MRI, CT scan or PET scan or a physical exam by a doctor, there appears no cancer evidence.
Some doctors make use of the terminology “NED” which usually stands for “no evidence of disease” with complete remission, and in some cases, complete remission is also termed as a “complete response.”
Typically, the terminology partial remission refers to cancer which is visible but has either reduced in scope or volume of cancerous cells as is the case with leukemia. Moreover, this can also be labeled as a tumor which has been “controlled” or using the terminology stable infection, and a partial response is one of the types of partial remission. Usually, a remission in which there has been at least 50 percent decrease in the size of the tumor that has been persistent for a minimum of one month is what is referred to as a partial response.
Whereas remission can mean the same thing as a stable infection or a complete response, and it typically is dependent on the type, it is however often used in with the blood-related cancers; these include lymphomas and leukemia. Additionally, the terms no evidence of infection or stable disease frequently are used when explaining the response of solid tumors to the cancer treatment. Solid tumors include colon cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer.
On the infrequent occasions where cancer goes into remission even without any treatment being directed to the cancer is what is known as the spontaneous remission of cancer.
Usually, the spontaneous remission happens when somebody diagnosed with cancer has been fighting off the illness, and in this case, it is thought the body’s immune system does this, consequently fighting off the cancer illness. Furthermore, this notion is the foundation of the newer kinds of cancer treatment which is known as cancer immunotherapy.
Majority of the remissions happen once the cancer treatment has been done either through radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy or the newer treatments like immunotherapy or targeted therapy.
Remission Does Not Necessarily Mean the Cancer Has Been Cured
Even when cancer has been deemed to be in remission, there still may be cancer cells existent in the body; nevertheless, these cells are not noticeable through tests which are available at this moment in time. Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from the mainly solid tumors, even very minute tumors, rarely get to hear this word being used. It is because if there is a possibility that cancer could reappear, even at the slightest chance of that happening, then this is typically known as NED or remission and not cured.
Recurrence and Progression
Relapse or recurrence of cancer is when the cancer returns and starts affecting your immune system after it had been in remission, and the tumors in remission consequently may;
- Relapse and then go back into its remission cycles.
- Indefinitely remain in remission
- Spread or Progress (grow): The terminology progressive infection means that the tumor has either experienced a minimum 20 percent increase in its size or has spread to other parts of the body.
The question as to why some types of cancer recur after several years or even decades is one which is often asked by the infected persons. Nevertheless, there still is no clear answer, but there are numerous theories which try and explain why cancer usually recurs after a period of remission.
One of the theories suggests that despite cancer appears to have been completely eradicated, and some cancer cells remain within the body even after the treatment. However, these cancer cells will remain in a state of dormancy (cancer stem cells) and will continue to persist until when the conditions are right resulting in the cancer cells to start growing again.
The Fear of Cancer Progression or Recurrence
The greatest cause of mortality with cancer is cancer recurrence; therefore, researchers actively are trying to find new methods to minimize this risk. If you are coping with the constant fear of either the recurrence or progression of cancer, then you clearly understand all the risks to well as well as the anxiety about the possible recurrence or relapse of cancer. It is something which exists in the hearts of lots of individuals who have experienced remission.
Whereas remission does not necessarily mean that cancer has been cured or gone for good for most cancers, in many ways it is an excellent sign; nevertheless, lymphomas and leukemia are some of the exceptions. Furthermore, cancer which either gone into either partial or complete remission is typically responding to a treatment which has been carried out. When the time reaches when the treatment does not work anymore, there are usually other methods of treating the tumor in case of recurrence.
For other tumors, the progressive use of different treatment methods when cancer no longer is in remission allows the oncologist to treat the disease is a manner comparable to most of the other medical conditions. That is, as a chronic infection which will always necessitate treatment but can still be kept stable for a longer duration of time.